‘Changing My Mind’ by Jo O’Riordan and Keith Parr

Here are two short pieces on the theme of ‘Changing My Mind’, the first by Jo Doshin O’Riordan and the second from Keith Shingo Parr, who is currently on Sesshin at Yokoji Zen Mountain Centre:

“I found it hard to decipher exactly what David Loy means. Saying that the world changes when one’s mind changes sounds very dramatic and even grandiose. The second bit could be restated as,  “What you give, you get back” This I have found to be the case in my life but especially in my practice. My practice is just sitting or Shikantaza. I have changed my mind a lot of times but never noticed the world taking a blind bit of notice. However sitting regularly increases and broadens one’s awareness. Things change all the time. That is the nature of the world. Sitting makes me more aware of these changes.

This awareness is extremely subtle and ineffable. It also contains a wisdom that seems to guide me in my dealing with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. It guides me in my attitudes and demeanour to life’s everyday problems. By regularly cultivating this awareness i.e. by just sitting, certainly I have found the world less threatening and fearful. Also this awareness always seems to be positive and creative. It seems to make everything more inclusive.

My feeling is not that we respond differently to the world but that the sense of being separate is lessened. If calming the mind by sitting equates to “when your mind changes”, then I reluctantly have to agree with Mr Loy.’

Jo Doshin O’Riordan

“Two weeks in and the end of Sesshin; a tough seven days but it’s amazing how strong your sitting gets as the week progresses. Does the world change as your mind changes? Or does it work the other way? Or maybe both?

From my perspective, my mind is constantly changing; as the story I tell myself changes, and as long as I attach to the stories I tell myself, I will see the world in many different ways. What I feel I need to do is to get myself out of the way. But the problem is that the world is It and I am It, and the stories I tell myself are It; so It – my Buddha Nature, my true self, whatever you want to call it, is trying to get itself out of the way. Not going to happen as long as I’m stuck in that particular groove.

So, for me personally, I have to wear it out, because the ‘seeking mind’ won’t let go. So the relative aspect of myself is getting in the way of the experience of ‘just this’ for me, and as my mind changes, yes, it sometime feels as if the world changes. There really isn’t anything to do; I just have to let my conditioned responses take their course, work on them, in terms of putting thoughts to one side as in Dogens’ advice, ‘thinking not thinking’ and wear it out, so the experience of the world, my mind, Big Mind, Life, becomes ‘just this’, all inclusive, all embracing.”

Keith Shingo Parr